Tag Archives: Dr. Grabow Westbrook pipes

Cleaning up a Dr. Grabow Westbrook 44

Blog by Steve Laug

Not long ago I received and email from Dave, a reader of the blog, asking about a couple of pipes that he had picked up. I have included his email below. He gives his assessment regarding the pipes and what he wanted done. He had also done a bit of research on the Dr. Grabow pipe for me. I really like this kind of information.

Steve… I have recently been gifted 2 estate pipes that I would love to have reincarnated by your hands. I am not sure of the cost and wanted to speak with you first. One because I have never shipped anything to Canada and I am not sure if there would be any issues. Two, I also wanted to get an estimate of cost before going forward. The 2 pipes in question are not in bad shape, just have some age, cake and minimal wear; one is a Whitehall rusticated with saddle stem and the other a Pear shaped Dr. Grabow Westbrook. The Dr. Grabow from what I can find is a special R J Reynolds model which has the orange spade on the side of the stem. I have attached some images with this email so that you have some idea of how they look. If you need additional images please let me know. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Regards, Dave The first that I chose to work on was the Dr. Grabow Westbrook Pear Shaped pipe. The pear shape came in both a slim pear (#74) and a medium pear (#44). The chart below is taken from https://pipedia.org/wiki/File:1960sDrGrabowFlyer5.jpg. It shows the shape of the pipe I was working on. I believe that I am working on a shape 44, Medium Pear.I examined the shank with a lens and I could see that the left side of the shank was stamped Westbrook over Dr. Grabow. The right side of the shank was stamped Imported Briar over PAT. The number that follows the PAT. stamp is illegible. It is very faint. From this I can extrapolate that the pipe is an early version of the Dr. Grabow Westbrook line. It came out in the early 1960s. https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Grabow

I found an article on Pipedia about the RJ Reynolds pipes and when and how they were offered through pipe coupons. I have included the majority of the article as well as the link.


R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company had two other pipe tobaccos which were George Washington and Carter Hall that shared a good hunk of the pipe tobacco market left over from Prince Albert and Sir Walter Raleigh. Thus sets the stage for a coupon to be placed in each package or can of these tobacco products. The pipes presented to the American public were the very finest mass produced pipes ever created by man, or in all probability will ever be created by man. Pipes were presented with either a metal filter or a paper filter. The highest quality pipes were presented with only a metal filter. The Westbrook model came either in a rustic or matte finish and had metal filters along with the Berwyck that presented the same choice with paper filters. These pipes could be purchased only by mailing five coupons and three dollars to Sparta, North Carolina. The classic of the series was a natural grain Emperor with only the metal filters and its cost was five dollars and required twenty five coupons. About half way through the duration of the offer the Sculptura was introduced as demand was high for a quality sandblast grain pipe. So, R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company set out to produce the perfect sandblast grain pipe and boasted that no finer sandblast pipe had ever been produced by man nor ever would be produced by man than its Sculptura that could only be purchased by collecting five coupons and sending that along with four dollars to Sparta, North Carolina.

Each order that was filled for every pipe ordered throughout America came in a neat box with a full set of literature including a shape chart that actually gave a pipe smoker an immediate choice to choose from far greater than any pipe store or other outlet that America has ever seen or probably will ever see.

This mail order offer that began sometimes in the early 1950’s would end in 1987 when R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company sold its tobacco products to John Middleton, Inc. At that time it was announced that this mail order offer was the longest running mail order offer in duration of time of any mail order offer of any product on the American market. Thus, an era ended eighteen years ago or so and as each year turns over these pipes become less available and thus more valuable.

The argument about a good smoking pipe so prevalent today among pipe smokers is not applicable to these pipes for the simple reason that they all smoke good and they all smoke just alike with no discernable differentiation that any one pipe is any better or worse than any of the others. These pipes came from the top twenty percent of Briar obtainable and were constructed with the quality control standards of a Zippo lighter. The only difference was in the shape and this was presented in a very large number of choices. The Dr. Grabow pipe is clearly stamped as such, but was never ever retailed. It was admitted by all that these pipes were superior to the retail Dr. Grabow pipe. Those with the metal filter are no longer obtainable from any source. Those with the paper filter, although similar to the present Dr. Grabow, is of a superior quality. Since those with the paper filter were not nearly so popular as the metal filter in those old days it is rather difficult to find one these days. There will not be many days until those with the metal filter are gone forever never to be replaced and it is likely that anyone who possesses such a pipe has a very valuable piece of Briar or to become such in not very many years. One other point, also like a Zippo, these pipes are virtually indestructible…

I took some photos of the pipe when it arrived. Overall impressions of the pipe were good. The briar was a beautifully grained piece; the stamping was faint on the left side of the shank and not readable on the right. The bowl had a light cake with overflow and darkening on the crowned rim. The stem was oxidized and appeared to have been clipped off. The new button was thin and the slot was sloppy. Work would need to be done with that end of the stem. I took a close up photo of the rim top and bowl to show the overall condition. It was in great shape for a pipe this age. It had been pretty well cared for over the years. I also took photos of the stem to show the thinness of the button. I am pretty certain it was reshaped somewhere along the way. The stinger apparatus was different from other Grabows that I have worked on. It was pressure fit into the threaded tenon and was a tube rather that the shovel stinger I was expecting.I scrubbed the top of the rim with a cotton pad and saliva to try to remove the buildup and darkening that was there. It actually worked very well. I sanded it with 1500 grit micromesh to further smooth things out. I reamed the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and took the cake back to bare briar.I built up the button top and bottom with black super glue. I did not need to build it up too much so I decided to just use the glue and not add charcoal powder. I set the repaired stem aside to let the glue cure.I sanded the bowl with 1500-6000 grit micromesh sanding pads and wiped it down with a damp cotton pad to remove the sanding dust. The photos below show the bowl after sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads. I scrubbed out the shank and the metal mortise with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until they came out clean. The interior of the shank was really dirty. Many pipe cleaners and cotton swabs later the shank was clean and the metal mortise was shiny.In the past I have used a Cherry Danish Oil Stain that matches the colour of these older Grabow Westbrook pipes really well. It is the kind of stain that you rub on, let sit and rub off. Since the finish on the Westbrook smooth pipes was smooth, once the stain was dry I would rub it down to a matte gloss look.I hand rubbed the finish once it had been sitting for a short time. The photos below show what the bowl looked like after it had been rubbed down. The grain really stands out now – showing a combination of birdseye and cross grain. I love the look of the briar on this old pipe. Once the repair had dried I reshaped the button with needle files. I worked on the slot with needle files. The third photo shows what the slot looked like at this point. I will need to smooth it out but it is looking better.I sanded down the file marks and the oxidation on the stem with 220 grit sandpaper. I folded a piece of 220 grit sandpaper and worked on the slot to smooth out the file marks. I sanded the flat end of the button. I cleaned out the airway in the stem with a pipe cleaner and alcohol. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I carefully buffed the stem with red Tripoli between the 2400-3200 grit pads. I finished with the pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. I gave it a final rubdown with oil and set it aside to dry. After I saw the oxidation still showing in the above photo I buffed the stem again with red Tripoli. I started the sanding process over and sanded the stem with the earlier micromesh sanding pads. I buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing pad.I worked some more on the stem to get out the hard to remove oxidation. It took time but I think it is gone for the most part. I polished the end of the stem with micromesh sanding pads to smooth out some of the scratches. The stem looks much better. I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond, carefully avoiding the Dr. Grabow spade logo so as not to damage it. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect it. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine and by hand with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. I took the following photos of the finished pipe. It is truly a beautiful piece of briar – hard to believe it is a coupon pipe it is such nice wood. The pipe is ready to go back to Dave. Now I have to finish up the second pipe he sent to me. Thanks for looking.

Great Grain – a Triangle Shank Grabow Westbrook Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

Wikus asked me in a comment on the blog I wrote on the KBB Yello-Bole Churchwarden why I don’t give the pipe a coat of either varnish or shellac after I have refinished them. I wrote a response in which I said I don’t like that finish and want the pipe to be able to breathe. I have found that the varnished bowls get hot when smoked so that is another reason. But probably the biggest reason is that I really like a more matte finish instead of the high gloss that some like. I have to be honest – to me the matte finish that lets the grain pop and hides nothing behind the shine really is my preference. It does not mean I don’t like a shine but rather that I like the shine of a good wax and buff over the other options.

The pipe I worked on next is a prime example of what lies beneath the varnish coat. This one is a unique (at least to me as I have not seen one before) triangular shank billiard made by Dr. Grabow. It is stamped on the left side of the shank WESTBROOK over Dr. Grabow (the bottom edge of the lower stamp is faint as it is very close to the ridge on the angle of the side). It is stamped on the right side Imported Briar (faint stamp) over Adjustomatic in script. Underneath both lines it reads PAT.2461905. My brother picked this one up because the grain and shape caught his attention. He took the following photos before he cleaned it up.grab1 grab1aFrom the above photos you can get a general idea of the shape and condition of the pipe. It is sound and has no cracks or burns on the surface. The finish is pretty well shot – the varnish is crackled and checked looking on the sides of the bowl and shank. The overall look is cloudy and muddied by the varnish going. There is a pretty thick cake in the bowl and it overflows onto the rim top. The bowl however appears to still be in round both on the inner and outer edges as far as can be seen in the slightly out of focus third photo. The stem looks good at this point with light oxidation and some tooth chatter and marks on the topside near the button. The orange Grabow spade logo is in place on the left side of the stem. More will be revealed through his close up photos.

The first photo shows the rim condition up close. My initial observation about the edges need to be modified somewhat. The inner edge looks good but it will be better determined once the thick and uneven cake is removed from the bowl (good news is that this one must have been a good smoker to have developed this kind of cake). The outer edge looks good other than some slight damage to the front right side where there appears to be a chip and some wearing.grab2The next close up photos show the stamping and stem logo. I have recorded the condition and content of the stamping above. I include these for you to see the overall condition of them and the finish on the shank and stem.grab3The last photos he included show the condition of the stem. There is a visible line that covers the separates the first inch of the stem from the rest which looks to me that the stem had a Softee bit on it for most of its life. There is tooth chatter on both sides of the stem and on the top side (second photo below) there are visible tooth marks that need to be dealt with. This is why I think the bit protector came after the initial tooth marks or they would have been far worse. On the underside of the stem there is a small tooth mark that is quite deep. Both sides will need some work to smooth out the damage.grab4I did a US Patent search to see what I could find out about the patent number on the side of the shank. I was able to find out that the patent was filed on Jan. 25, 1946 but was not issues until February 15, 1949. I learned that the inventor of the Adjustomatic system for Grabow was D.P. Lavietes. I know nothing about him but I do know that Dr. Grabow used the mechanism in their pipes. With this information I know that the pipe was made after 1949 because the patent stamp says that the mechanism is patented not patent applied for. I have included the entire patent below for those who may be interested. I enjoy the descriptions, rationale and drawings that the inventor includes in these old patents. They are a pleasure for me to read through them. If you want you can skip over the next four photos and read about the pipe’s restoration.grab5 grab6 grab7 grab8My brother did his usual thorough cleaning of the pipe. He reamed the bowl and cleaned the internals of the shank, mortise and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the rim and was able to remove all of the tars and oils that had built up there. He cleaned the exterior of the bowl and stem with Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grime and build up in those areas. When I received the pipe in Vancouver it was clean. The only thing that he had not been able to do was remove the stinger from the threaded tenon to clean behind it. The next four photos give a clear picture of what the pipe looked like when it arrived.grab9 grab10The close up photo below shows how well the rim and bowl cleaned up. The inner rim was in pretty decent shape other than a little burn on the front edge almost in line with the chip on the outer edge.grab11The stem was in better condition than I expected as in the cleaning process a lot of the chatter seems to have been removed with the calcification.grab12I took photos of the condition of the stinger apparatus because it was looking really good. In the past when I got these they were black and looked awful. They were bad enough that if I did not like stingers before, the general grime and grit would have sealed the deal. This one however was sparkling.grab13I heated the stinger with a Bic lighter and the tars that held in the tenon released it. With the stinger removed I was able to clean out the buildup behind it in the stem. I used pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to clean out that area of the stem. I cleaned out any remaining debris in the mortise at the same time.grab14I sanded the tooth marks and the rest of the stem to deal with the oxidation using a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. The tooth marks came out of the top side of the stem with no problem. There was still one small almost pin hole tooth mark on the underside that I would need to deal with and repair. I cleaned the surface of the stem with alcohol and filled in the mark with clear super glue. Once it dried I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to blend it in with the rest of the stem surface.grab15 grab15aI buffed the stem with Red Tripoli on the buffing wheel and brought it back to the work table to polish it with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. After each set of three pads I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. After the last pad I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry.grab15b grab15cAfter polishing with the 1500-2400 grit pads I wiped down the tenon with an alcohol wet cotton pad to remove some of the darkening in the threads. In doing so I got some alcohol on the end of the stem and it brought out a bit more oxidation to the surface. This is one of those frustrations but also a good thing as I was able to then back track and sand the stem again with 1500-4000 grit pads and then buff it with some Blue Diamond on the wheel and I removed the rest of the oxidation. I then went back to polishing the stem with 6000-12000 grit pads to bring the shine to the surface.grab15dWith the stem polishing done I set it aside and turned to the bowl. I examined it and decided that the best way to deal with the crackling varnish coat was to remove it. My choice for removing varnish coats is to scrub the finish with acetone on a cotton pad until it is gone. The first wipes will leave the surface gummy and rough. You have to scrub the surface until it is smooth to touch. The next four photos show the bowl with the crackled finish.grab16 grab17It took four cotton pads and acetone to remove this crackled varnish finish. Underneath the cloudy varnish coat there was some really stunning grain.grab18 grab19Once the finish was gone and I had wiped the pipe with a paper towel with a little bit of olive oil I took photos of the pipe. There was some scratching in the briar that would need to be polished and there were some nicks that would need to be lifted if they did not polish out but the overall appearance of the pipe was stunning.grab20 grab21I worked on the bevel of the inner edge to smooth out and remove the damage on the front side. I used 180 grit and 220 grit sandpaper to bevel the rim a little to accommodate the edge damage. I polished the briar on the rim with 2400 grit micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratching left behind by the beveling. I polished the bowl and rim with 3200-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads to raise a shine in the briar and make the grain stand out.grab22 grab23I put the stem and bowl back together again and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the wheel to further polish it. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect it and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It has come a long way from the worn and tired pipe that came to my brother in Idaho. The depth of the shine, the look of the grain and the flow of the pipe all work together to make this a beautiful Dr. Grabow pipe. It is one of the earliest pipes of the RJ Reynolds era. It was a fun pipe to work on and the results just multiplied as each step I took in the cleaning and polishing process brought more of the beauty of this piece of briar alive. Thanks for looking.grab24 grab25 grab26 grab27 grab28 grab29 grab30 grab31

Restoring a Dr. Grabow Westbrook 42

Blog by Steve Laug

In a box of pipes I was gifted there was a pipe stamped WESTBROOK over Dr. Grabow on the left side of the shank. On the right side it is stamped Imported Briar over Adjustomatic over PAT. 2181833. I did some searching on the web and found that it was a shape number 42. I found plenty of photos of wire carved Westbrook 42s but only one of a smooth alongside of the wire carved. This pair was pictured on the Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum and belongs to Troy Wilburn. Mine is similar to the smooth one but the look of the stem is more of a true saddle like the wire carved one.Doc1 The grain on it was beautiful under the peeling varnish finish. There was a lot of birdseye and swirls with some mixed flame and straight grain. There were small nicks on the left side near the rim and on the front edge of the rim. The stem was oxidized but otherwise clean. The internals were pretty clean. The bowl had some slight carbon build up. The stinger apparatus was missing but I have one thanks to Troy that will fit perfect.Doc2




Doc6 I scrubbed the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the bubbled and peeling varnish or lacquer coating. It took some elbow grease but it came out pretty well. With that coat gone you can begin to see the grain on the sides, top and bottom of the bowl.Doc7



Doc10 I wiped it down a final time with isopropyl alcohol and took the next photos to show the grain on this little beauty! It is a great piece of briar and what appeared to be fill were not but rather just chips of varnish that came off.Doc11



Doc14 The front edge of the rim and the left side nicks would need to be sanded to smooth them out. The entire bowl would also need to be sanded with micromesh to remove the bits of varnish stuck on the briar and also smooth out some of the scratches in the briar.Doc15 I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and took the cake back to just a thin coating. I left a little on the sides and bottom of the bowl to protect the bowl. I cleaned out the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the grime.Doc16

Doc17 I sanded the rim of the bowl and bowl sides with micromesh sanding pads. I smoothed out the damage on the front of the bowl and on the side. I also worked on the stem. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil in between each set of three pads. I cleaned the metal threaded tenon with steel wool and then added the spoon stinger in the tenon to make the pipe complete.Doc18


Doc20 The oxidation on this one was tough to get off the stem. I took it to the buffer and use some Tripoli, White Diamond and then Blue Diamond and I finally beat it. I took it back to the work table and sanded it again with the last three grits of micromesh – 6000-12000 grit. I rubbed it down again with Obsidian Oil and then gave both the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean flannel buff and then hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth. The finished pipe is shown below.Doc21









Refurbishing a Dr. Grabow Westbrook 84L Smooth Canadian

Blog by Troy Wilburn

I got this pipe in a trade. I was pleasantly surprised when it showed up it was an 84L and not a regular 84. The stampings are crisp. The rim did have some dings so I had to lightly top it and restain it. There are still some very light dings on pipe but I let them go as the factory finish and color was excellent. So I just cleaned and buffed it other than rim. The stem still has some teeth marks I could not get out fully. The old bowl cake came out easy and the shank was not that dirty and I’m glad because these Canadian shanks are a pain to clean lol. It has zero fills too, which on that much briar was a nice surprise. All and all I’m very happy with it.

Here is the pipe when it arrived.West1




West5 I took pics of it after I had finished restoring it with a couple of my favorite 45 EPs .

After: West6